How to Answer, “What Is Your Greatest Weakness?” in a Job Interview (With Examples)
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- Hiring managers ask about your greatest weakness to see if you have self-awareness.
- Having self-awareness means you have the potential to grow into a well-rounded worker.
- You should choose a weakness that you can fix and won't make you seem like a risky hire.
Getting asked, "What is your greatest weakness?" in a job interview can feel like a lose-lose scenario, but it's not.
The question is not so much about identifying your flaws — though those do matter. A hiring manager is more interested in whether you can analyze yourself and come up with ways to improve.
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Hiring managers who ask about your greatest weakness are generally trying to find out two important things about you:
- If you have self-awareness about where you can grow
- If you have the humility to take action toward becoming better
Peter Dudley, an executive and life coach, says people who lack self-awareness can sometimes be questionable hires. Those people tend to be difficult to manage, a challenge for co-workers to get along with, and often cannot grow into the role.
It's important that you show you have the potential to become a well-rounded employee, despite your flaws. Here are three tips to consider before talking about your greatest weakness in your next job interview:
- Explain how you're working on overcoming your weakness.
- Avoid a weakness that makes you seem like a risky hire.
- Don't try to pass your weakness off as a strength.
1. Explain how you're working on overcoming your weakness. Everyone has weaknesses, but hiring managers want to know how you're trying to improve. Make it a goal to show that you can identify a fault and figure out how to fix it. Bridgett McGowen, a professional speaker and former Forbes Coaches Council contributor, says the key is to get specific about the steps you're taking and what kind of impact it will have.
For example: "A weakness I tend to struggle with is being a procrastinator. I push things back and back until I'm forced to complete them without much time for wiggle room. But, I've figured out some good ways to improve. I use apps to create task lists and set reminders for myself when I need to complete those tasks. It pings me when I'm falling behind, so I know I need to stay on top of it. Plus, I like to give myself a reward if I complete everything ahead of time, such as a chai tea from my favorite coffee shop."
- Talk about the steps you're taking to address your biggest shortcoming.
- Show that you're being proactive about improving yourself.
- Explain how your effort to improve will help make you become a better worker.
2. Avoid a weakness that makes you seem like a risky hire. If your biggest weakness directly conflicts with the job requirements, you may want to reconsider talking about it. Adrienne Dinkelacker, manager director of The Atlas Group, suggests using the job description as a reference for what not to say. You can choose an area where you can improve that may not be as important to the job and won't hurt your chances of getting hired.
For example: If the job needs someone detail-oriented, don't give an example of when you weren't detail-oriented.
- Make sure your weakness doesn't conflict with the core job duties.
- Use the job description as a reference for what not to say.
- Choose an area of improvement that won't hurt your chances of getting hired.
3. Don't try to pass your weakness off as a strength. If your weakness sounds more like a strength, then it defeats the purpose of the question. Hiring managers want to know if you can analyze yourself and find a solution to work around your weaknesses. Kyle Risley, CEO of Lift Vault, says it's better to find the courage to talk about a fault and how you're working on improving to be a more well-rounded employee.
For example: Unless you can explain how being a perfectionist or that you work too hard is negative, then this type of answer may sound disingenuous. Most people don't think less of someone for being detail-oriented or hardworking. But if you can explain how your perfectionism slows your productivity or your work ethic hurts your work-life balance, then it's fair game. The key is explaining how, when, and why your weakness becomes negative.
- A weakness that sounds more like a strength defeats the purpose of the question.
- Hiring managers want to know you can analyze your weakness and find a solution.
- Have the courage to talk about your weakness and how you're working to improve.